Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An August surprise

Just when I start to get complacent and maybe even a little smug about how well I know my spaces and what grows here?  I run across a new vine that is not only present, but is in this case rampant, and I'm pretty sure I never saw it growing here before.
What I'm referring to is Melothria pendula, commonly known as Guadaloupe or Creeping cucumber.  It has shown up as a lacy covering atop of a little copse of roughleaf dogwood, spreading sideways over the crests of surrounding vinca, creeper and jasmine ground covers, to climb and drape a recurrent hackberry sapling.

At first I thought we had muscadine grapes establishing, which I would have welcomed, but then I realized there were no clusters forming. Whatever those green fruits were, they weren't grapes.
A little bit of searching here and there revealed that what we have is a wild vine, not exactly common but occurring county wide, producing yellow flowers followed by hanging green fruit resembling micro-watermelons, that will eventually ripen to a deep purple black.  Bird planted, most likely.
The fruit is arguably edible depending on the source consulted, with the general consensus being that toxicity can be avoided by eating the fruit while in its unripe green state.  Eating the ripened fruit once it darkens in color will apparently produce a significant "laxative effect".

I doubt I'll test that ediblity premise. I'm not particularly adventurous when it comes to foraging wild plants.  As far as I can determine, the vines aren't invasive and won't strangle out their supporting props.  I think they are quite lovely, so at least for this season, I plan to leave them in place and enjoy their twining tendrils.
Hackberry?  Your date with the pruning shears has been temporarily postponed. So long as you are covered with creeping cucumber vines, you may stay.


Tina said...

You know, this time of year, I'm grateful for anything green. Your cucumber vine is a lovely little thing. Hackberries. Boo--hiss. I have those everywhere. I wish more desirable perennials would seed out with the same vigor.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: Isn't that always the way? The plants you do want everywhere seem SO particular and subject to catastrophes of every ilk, and the plants you have no desire to support come in and up without invitation and make themselves right to home.

I may live to regret leaving the cucumber vine to its own devices, but as long as I've got hackberries and privets to battle that war (if it comes to that) will wait!
(Hurry UP, October!)

Debra said...

Congratulations on your new arrival ;) It is really pretty. I have to say my favourite plants are almost always the surprises.

Linda/patchwork said...

I've never seen one of these.
Looks pretty, though.

Melody said...

I have battled this cute little vine at The Warrior and Family Support Center gardens where I volunteer and even though I'm a big fan of vines, this one will take over anything in its way! If it just stayed on a fence I wouldn't mind. A lady from Thailand stopped and told us that they eat the little fruit and told us how to prepare it but I think I'll pass giving it a try.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: Ha - thank you! I'm happy this was a sweet surprise - we've had plenty enough of the other sort already!

TexasDeb said...

Linda: The Hub says he had seen it once before out back but I'm pretty sure I never noticed it before. We'll see how happy I am next year if it turns out to be super invasive. So far it seems pretty well behaved and I love the way the fruit looks like micro watermelons.

TexasDeb said...

Melody: So far this vine is growing out in an area where multiple types of vines act as ground cover under some pretty deep shade. In that context it is a welcome addition. I could see where having it cover a bed in full sun would be problematic.

Thanks for the heads up - I'll keep a close eye on it. (and I read about eating the fruit but think I'll pass, too!).